Shock child reading figures show we need radical action
After four years of full-time schooling, most pupils cannot understand what they read, if they can decode the words at all
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) 2016 results were released by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Tuesday. To say that they are anything but devastating would be a lie. About 78% of Grade 4 pupils cannot read — that’s eight out of every 10 children of that age in the country — not in English, not in their home language, not in any language. Among Setswana and Sepedi home-language pupils the figure is more than 90%. After four years of full-time schooling, most pupils cannot understand what they read, if they can decode the words at all. Simple questions, workbook exercises, even the most basic storybook — these are meaningless to them. And unless children are taught how to read, the country has failed them before they’ve even started. The report’s five most important findings are: Eight of 10 Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning. That is to say that they could not reach the lowest international Pirls benchmark in reading. They could not locat...